For me this past month with baby Max has been harder than any point during my pregnancy…. Giving birth was nothing compared to the first two weeks of having him out in the world – it was the transition from pregnant to parent – from ME to US.
And it was deceivingly blissful the first day or so. The afternoon we brought Max home, I was pretty “high” on the baby hormones – which allowed me to stay awake and breastfeed him regularly with seeming success. But by the next morning, I could feel the beginning of my body’s process of recovery from the birth – I was extremely sore in my arms, shoulders, legs, and the back of my head from gripping and pushing myself against the sides of the birth tub. My nether region was pretty sore too – I never in my life expected to be grateful that adult diapers exist – although I suppose there will be a time for that in later days again. I took a small amount of ibuprofen for the first couple of days, mostly to ease myself into the moderate pain of recovery.
I wasn’t expecting Max to be so sleepy – he slept a ton those first few days! It was challenging to wake him up for feeding every 2 hours, but I set my alarm to make sure he was getting plenty of that early colostrum. On the other hand, I was getting very little sleep – this being my first child, I was consistently awoken in the night by the inherent need to reach over and check if he was still breathing (a newborn’s breathing is sooo shallow when they sleep). At this point, Max was sleeping in the Dockatot, in the middle of Cam and I (apparently Cam was up all night checking on him too).
My milk came in by day 3, and boy did it come in. My breasts were so swollen and were starting to get hard lumps that freaked me out a little bit (I’d read about the likeliness of getting mastitis, so I was on the lookout). My insurance company hadn’t sent my breast pump yet, which was actually cool, because I was reluctant to use anything that may cause my body confusion when it came to milk production. So I started hand expressing into breast milk bags, which worked great and really wasn’t that hard to do (although it should be noted that hand expression does NOT reduce the pressure right away, it takes a little while after you’ve finished before the breast softens). **I have to admit, the idea of breastfeeding and having to hand express my milk was one of the things that sort of grossed me out mentally when I was pregnant – but it really was much easier to do than I had expected – which says something about expectations** Also leaking became a regular experience throughout the day (that gets better too ladies, by the end of the first month it rarely happens).
Max was eating well. By our day 3 pediatric appointment, he had only lost 4 oz of weight, and when we came in at the end of that week, he had gained back another 4 oz over his birth weight. He did start to develop a little bit of jaundice, which left him with a yellow tint, but his bilirubin levels weren’t high enough to warrant any treatment other than spending a little time in some indirect sunlight (we breastfed outside and napped in a brightly lit room). The jaundice had decreased a lot by a week and a half, and was completely gone by the end of 3 weeks.
I had read so much about breastfeeding – and the one thing that I had absorbed that ended up causing the most anxiety was this idea that “if breastfeeding hurts, you’re doing it wrong”. This idea requires some clarification, from my perspective… “If this is your first baby, breastfeeding will hurt a bit for the first couple weeks or so while your nipples adapt – it may hurt quite a lot when the baby latches on- don’t let that freak you out, it will pass – in the meantime, put breast milk on any cracks or scabs, use coconut oil also – it helps a lot. If the pain continues, get a lactation consultant to help – otherwise, if baby is gaining weight properly and the pain is decreasing over time, don’t worry so much about whether or not you have the perfect latch – you’ll get better and better at it, and soon it will not hurt at all”.
After the first few days – Max started to wake up a bit to the world around him, and for him (and me) it was a tough transition. He had bouts of crying that made a moment feel like an eternity – and for seemingly no reason, as he’d fed to his heart’s content, had a clean diaper, and didn’t have a fever or any other obvious discomfort. We thought maybe he was having some problems with gas, but we would burp him and
not get any results – we even tried Gripe water a few times, which had minimal results. Just when we were about to declare the dreaded word “colic” – Cam and I stumbled across a video from a pediatric chiropractor that showed different ways to burp a baby… explaining the cycle of discomfort/feed/discomfort/feed that occurs if you don’t burp a baby properly within 20 minutes of them eating. Max responded really well to rotating through different burping methods until we definitely got a burp each time he fed – which made us both feel pretty good that we could give him some relief.
Over and over, the midwives told me to “sleep when the baby sleeps” – but after the first week, I started trying to get some work done while he was sleeping. At this point, it would take about an hour or so of rocking and dancing (he friggin’ loves Yacht Rock music and 80’s UK pop – and yes I have tried other music) to get him to go to sleep. Then he would sleep a couple of hours or so and wake up, feed, repeat. I found out quickly that I was trying to do too much too soon, my bleeding returned and I resolved myself to keep the physical work to a minimum until I got to my three week checkup.
Throughout this time, Max really didn’t like any of the “baby things” we’d got for him – not the swing, or the bouncy chair, or the Ergo baby wrap (or the 2 other baby wraps I got him) – the only thing he would not scream in was the Dockatot – which was a lifesaver – we were co-sleeping and this thing made it so easy to adjust his position without waking him up. He mostly just wanted to be in our arms whenever he was awake.
I had moments during this month where I needed to cry, mostly in the early days when I was so sleep deprived and holding a baby that was just wailing and wailing. Cam and I both had moments where we were short-tempered with each other – but we discovered together that this mostly had to do with us not communicating our expectations and frustrations with each other (we’ve learned that communication is always at the root of the problem).
By the end of the month, I’ve found my groove/flow within and as a parent – I keep reminding myself “His needs come before my preferences” – which helps me realize/remind myself of the commitment I made when I decided to have Max – and that I would do whatever it takes so that he’s happy and healthy (because that makes me happy)